Cult admits it may have mixed up its Armageddon dates 17, 2003
By Shane Green

The world did not end this week - a relief for most of us. But for Pana Wave, the strange and possibly dangerous white-clad Japanese cult that made the prediction, things could not have been worse.

It was all meant to be over on Thursday, when the unknown 10th planet approached the Earth, causing the globe to tip and triggering a massive earthquake.

But as the clock ticked over into Thursday in Japan, the only things that had approached were drenching spring rains and the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, in town for North Korean talks. Pana Wave had mentioned neither in its Armageddon predictions.

To be sure, at the start of the week, there had been an earthquake that shook awake Tokyoites, who are waiting for the next Big One - the devastating earthquake expected one day in the capital.

For Pana Wave devotees, there may have been a fleeting "we told you so" moment, albeit a few days ahead of schedule. But the only casualty was a boy who suffered a broken arm when he fell out of bed.

Perhaps sensing that Armageddon was not imminent after all, revisionist statements began emerging from the Pana Wave camp in central Japan. In the region's mountains, the cult is seeking a haven from electromagnetic waves it says are being directed at it by communists. The cultists believe their white garb helps repel the waves.

One cult member was reported as saying that the end of the world had been delayed for a week. Pana Wavians, however, have suffered irreversible damage to their credibility.

Armageddon aside, the reaction of the Japanese to Pana Wave continues to swing between amused and disturbed. There was the idea posted on the popular Two Channel chatroom that people should dress in black and surround the cultists with wave-emitting mobile phones and microwave ovens.

But there is also the darker side of the Pana Wave story. At the back of everyone's mind is the doomsday cult Aum that attacked Tokyo's subway system with sarin gas in 1995. So, on the eve of the predicted Armageddon, police searched the cult's vehicles and facilities. The justification was that a false name had been used to register three of the cult's vehicles. But authorities were also looking for more information about the cult.

Then there were the 10 bolts removed from a disaster prevention radio mast. A letter was sent to a national newspaper warning that unless the media stopped its coverage of Pana Wave, the mast would be toppled.

Finally, what of Tama-chan, the Arctic seal living in Tokyo's murky rivers that the cult believed it should rescue to save the world? As Thursday approached, it was spotted frolicking unperturbed - free of the fish hook that had recently lodged in its eye.

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